Category: News

2017 OFNC award winners at the Ottawa Regional Science Fair

by Lucy Patterson

A raven’s view of the Ottawa Regional Science Fair at Carleton University

It is that time of year again – when young scientists come together to present their science projects at the Ottawa Regional Science Fair. On March 31st and April 1st, 2017, students from grades 7 to 12 from the Ottawa-Gatineau region presented science projects attempting to answer a number of questions. Is it possible to buffer ocean acidification with baking soda? Can cilantro remove lead from contaminate water? Can invasive plants be used to absorb oil in a marina?

Since 1961, this volunteer-run event has encouraged students to design, develop, and present research projects in science and engineering. The students with the best projects are then invited to participate in a Canada-Wide Science Fair. This year, the Ottawa Regional Science Fair was held at Carleton University’s “Raven’s Nest.”

Every year, the OFNC presents awards to the creators of two or three outstanding projects that “demonstrate a knowledge of some aspect of natural history, field ecology, or wildlife conservation.” I have judged these projects with Kathy Conlan, a research scientist at the Canadian Museum of Nature, for the past three years.

Students nominate themselves for the award, and this year there were 16 entries. It was wonderful to see so many projects tackling environmental issues!

This year’s OFNC award winners were Daniel Anderson, for his invention to provide housing for pollinators ranging from bees to beetles and lacewings (“La demeure des pollinisateurs”); Julianne Jeger, for her project examining which type of road salt had the least impact on plants (“L’impact du sel de route sur les fleurs sauvages”); and Ryland Ferrall, for his project demonstrating the effectiveness of the polyphenols in tea for slowing the spread of oil during an oil spill (“The Polyphenol Effect”). Each project was awarded a $100 prize. Congratulations to Daniel, Julianne, and Ryland for their exceptional projects!

Daniel Anderson, second-time winner of the OFNC award, in front of his project, “La demeure des pollinisateurs”

Julianne Jager in front of her project, “L’impact du sel de route sur les fleurs sauvages”

Ryland Ferrall in front of his project, “The Polyphenol Effect”

Victory! An end to the Snapping Turtle hunt

by David Seburn

“Snapping Turtles take about 20 years to reach maturity in Ontario” – that’s a long time to survive before being able to reproduce! (photo by David Seburn)

Earlier this year, the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) released proposed changes to the hunting regulations for the province. Among them was a proposal to shorten – but not end – the hunting period for the Snapping Turtle.

The Snapping Turtle is listed as a species at risk both provincially and federally. The management plan for the species clearly states, “Considering the reproductive strategy of the Snapping Turtle (i.e., delayed sexual maturity, high embryo mortality, extended adult longevity…), harvesting (legal or illegal) of adults and older juveniles is especially harmful for wild populations.”

The hunting of turtles is rarely sustainable given their life histories. Snapping Turtles take about 20 years to reach maturity in Ontario, many of their nests are predated by Raccoons, and they face ongoing threats of wetland loss, traffic mortality (often adult females looking for places to nest), and persecution by people. Given all these factors, many people were upset that the MNRF was not going to end the hunting of Snapping Turtles in Ontario. Many organizations, including the Ottawa Field-Naturalists’ Club, Ontario Nature, and the David Suzuki Foundation mounted a campaign to encourage people to tell the government that the Snapping Turtle should not be hunted.

Newly hatched snappers face many challenges from the time they emerge from their nest. The new ban on hunting removes at least one of them. (photo by David Seburn)

Over 13,000 comments were submitted on the proposed hunting regulations and the effort paid off. In the revised regulations, posted on March 31, the government of Ontario had removed the Snapping Turtle from the hunting list. Thanks to everyone who urged the government to end the hunt.

This is a great victory for the Snapping Turtle and everyone who took the time to write to the government about this issue. It is also a powerful lesson to those who care about nature. Current events in the world, particularly south of the border, can make it easy to believe that things are hopeless. But governments do listen to people. When we join together, our voices can be heard and public policy can be changed. It is not always easy, but persistence can pay off. Slow and steady can win the day.

Thanks to everyone who urged the government to end the hunt. Slow and steady can win the day. (photo by Barry Cottam)

Naturalists in the making: 2016 OFNC award winners at the Ottawa Regional Science Fair

by Lucy Patterson

ScienceFair
What is the most endangered bird species in the world? What is the best way to contain an oil spill? Will the emerald ash borer begin attacking lilacs once ash trees have died out? These questions and many more were tackled by students on April 8 and 9 this year at the annual Ottawa Regional Science Fair. Since 1961, this volunteer-run event has encouraged students from grades 7 to 12 in the Ottawa-Carleton region to design, develop, and present research projects in science and engineering. The students with the best projects are then invited to participate in a Canada-Wide Science Fair. This year, the Ottawa Regional Science Fair was held at Carleton University’s “Raven’s Nest.”

Every year, the OFNC presents awards to the creators of two or three outstanding projects that “demonstrate a knowledge of some aspect of natural history, field ecology, or wildlife conservation.” This year, I judged the projects with Kathy Conlan, a research scientist and the section head of zoology at the Canadian Museum of Nature. Students self-nominate themselves for the award, and this year there were 17 entries. In a world where interest in nature seems to be losing ground to technology, it was wonderful to see so many entries for this award!

Winners of OFNC awards this year were Dexter McIlroy, for his project demonstrating the effects of acid on mollusc shells (“L’acidification des océans’’ or “Ocean Acidification’’); Daniel Anderson, for his invention to prevent wildlife from being struck by tractors during haying season (“La chair de poule” or “Goosebumps”), and Maizie Solomon and Tara Hanson-Wright, for their project demonstrating the role of earthworms in soil decomposition (“Nature’s Gold Mine”). Each project was awarded a $100 prize. Congratulations to Dexter, Daniel, Maizie, and Tara for their exceptional projects!

Dexter McIlroy  with his project, “Ocean Acidification.”

Dexter McIlroy with his project, “Ocean Acidification.”

Daniel Anderson with his project, “Goosebumps.”

Daniel Anderson with his project, “Goosebumps.”

Maizie Soloman (left) and Tara Hanson-Wright in front of their project, “Nature’s Gold Mine.”

Maizie Soloman (left) and Tara Hanson-Wright in front of their project, “Nature’s Gold Mine.”

OFNC communications: building a new website

clipart-typingby Lynn Ovenden, Website Working Group

The club is building a website that can become the central place to find all OFNC news and information.

For those with a technical interest, the new website will be built in WordPress. Each OFNC committee will receive website training to add event listings and blog posts to the new site at their convenience and to make any changes to their committee information. The website will function equally well on desktop computers, laptops, and mobile devices.

A new website is OFNC’s first step toward improving communications to OFNC members. Modern tools enable the club to integrate email, blog, newsletter, and social media communications through the website. Our goal is a system where information and news about all OFNC activities can be shared via one central club email, one Facebook page, and Trail & Landscape. We want OFNC members to have easy access to this information. We also want to make it easy for the communicators in the club to communicate.

Do you recall the 2015 member survey (see T&L 49(3):87 and Field Notes May 11, 2015)? Communications consultant, Heather Badenoch of Village PR, developed the survey and interviewed OFNC members from every committee from January to May 2015. We learned how OFNC members like to receive information and that OFNC currently uses about 30 different communication methods to reach OFNC members if we include the various website, email, and Facebook systems of individual committees.

Village PR submitted its final report on last year’s surveys (some details are now out-of-date) with nine recommendations for OFNC’s future communications. The board of directors took the report under advisement and asked that a working group begin by developing a modern website that can support some of the other recommendations.

Big thanks to OFNC members who are helping with this process: Annie Belair, Mark Brenchley, Owen Clarkin, Barry Cottam, Ted Farnworth, Sandy Garland, Christine Hanrahan, Anouk Houdeman, Rob Lee, Lynn Ovenden, Luke Periard, Rémy Poulin, Chris Traynor, Ken Young, and Eleanor Zurbrigg. We receive strategic communication guidance from Heather Badenoch of Village PR and have been joined by web developer Osamu Wakabayashi of Zen Ideas.

With any questions about this project, please contact Lynn at bigskies at xplornet dot ca.

2015 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 10,000 times in 2015. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 4 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Thanks for sponsoring me, OFNC!

by Sophie Roy

Dear OFNC,

I would like to thank you for sponsoring me for the Ontario Nature Youth Summit in Orillia. I had an amazing time and learned so much during my weekend by the lake!

SophieRoy

I really wanted to go to the summit because I felt that I needed to involve myself in the community more. I am new to the OFNC, and before this group I knew of no group or community that was interested in nature.

This summit has introduced me to Ontario Nature, which is an amazing organization that I look forward to being involved with in the future. I also got to meet loads of bright young naturalists, which was very refreshing and inspiring. I was pleasantly surprised that there are so many other young people that want to make a difference. The summit has given me the opportunity to connect with these people, discuss environmental issues and to work with them to find solutions to those issues.

I really enjoyed myself and learned about so many things; birds, herps, plants, astronomy, insects, and much more! Here are some of my highlights.

12285715_857953770987413_1846869087_nOn the first day, we were lucky enough to be able to hold many of Ontario’s reptiles. I learned so much that night; I had no idea we had so many types of snakes and turtles! We learned about eastern fox snakes, hog-nosed snakes, blue racers, spotted turtles, wood turtles, and Blanding’s turtle, among others.  My favourite was the hog-nosed snake, an incredible species that is, unfortunately, threatened.

I learned about sunspots, and got to see some close up.  There was an astronomer at the summit, and he had brought his telescope to give us our first look at Saturn. He had told us his first time seeing Saturn is exactly what got him hooked on astronomy. You could clearly see the rings, and even one of its moons! It really was an amazing sight.

I met an amazing man called Skid Crease. He gave an inspiring (and entertaining!) presentation, and I had the pleasure of sitting with him during lunch the next day. It was incredible to be able to talk to someone who isn’t afraid to speak his mind, or to take action. Whether it’s for a healthy environment or for other causes, we need more people like him.

Finally, I got my 200th bird at the summit! Each morning, there was a nice little hike offered by some of the organizers of the summit. I got to see a lot of familiar (but no less exiting) birds, and my first blue-headed vireo! What a great way to start the day.

I am going to try to learn more about the subjects that were covered at the summit. The summit has inspired me to report (and look for!) reptiles and amphibians, learn to ID native plants, and keep an eye on the sky.  I really enjoyed being introduced to so many different fields!

Coming back from the summit, I have decided to make an environmental club at my school for next year. I talked to so many young naturalists who had successful clubs, and they have inspired me to do the same.

Thank you so much for this experience. The summit has taught me so much, and I have met so many interesting people. It really was an incredible experience that I will never forget.

Sincerely,
Sophie Roy

12282796_857953767654080_339204390_n

Victory for the Snapping Turtles!

By David Seburn

They say you can’t fight city hall. However, sometimes you can motivate the powers that be.

Can you see the baby snapper? Can you see how high that curb must look to it? Photo by Ian Whyte

Can you see the baby snapper? Can you see how high that curb must look to it? Photo by Ian Whyte

For some time now, it has been known that hatchling Snapping Turtles (officially listed as a species at risk) are killed on the road to the water filtration plant at the Britannia Conservation Area, or Mud Lake. (See Hatchling Snapping Turtles on the move! and Mud Lake turtle rescue.)

Female Snapping Turtles emerge from the lake every June to find good spots to lay their eggs. Although they may head in any direction, many travel north from the lake and lay their eggs in the gardens and open areas around the filtration plant. Every fall the eggs hatch and the tiny hatchlings head for the lake – or sometimes away from it.

Baby turtles emerging from nests close to the lake may only have to trek a few metres. Others must cross the road to make it to the lake and some fall onto it going in the wrong direction. Being hit by a car, even on a low-traffic road, is always a risk, but a larger problem was the road’s curb. Hatchlings could easily get onto the road by tumbling down from the curb on the north side of the road. But those that crossed safely faced a big problem: they were trapped on the road.

The curb was only about 14 cm tall, but from the viewpoint of a 3-cm-long hatchling, it was an insurmountable cliff (see photo above). Hatchlings could follow the curb and, maybe, find a gap, but this might be 25 m away. Many died from dehydration under the hot sun on the road – or were eaten.

The OFNC Conservation Committee has been working with the city on this issue since early 2015, and a solution has now been put in place. This fall, the city removed the vertical curbs along the south side of the road and replaced them with sloped curbs. The gradual slope means that, come next fall, hatchling Snapping Turtles will be able to cross the road and continue their trek to Mud Lake.

We commend the city for taking this issue seriously and taking action, and we thank all those who made this solution possible!

The new curbs at Mud Lake will allow hatchling turtles (the size of this toy turtle in the inset) to climb the slope and make their way to the lake.

The new curbs at Mud Lake will allow hatchling turtles (about half the size of this toy turtle in the inset) to climb the slope and make their way to the lake. Photo by David Seburn

Remembering Laurie Consaul

by Fenja Brodo
President, OFNC

BridgeFamily, friends and colleagues of Laurie Consaul came out to a tree planting in her memory on September 30th. A Hickory (Carya cordiformis) sapling was lovingly planted by Mark Armstrong, Laurie’s husband and special friend.

Mark Armstrong, planting a hickory tree for Laurie

Mark Armstrong, planting a hickory tree for Laurie (this photo and the one above left by Colin Freebury)

The hole had been dug by Diane Lepage. She and her committee had prepared the ground very well for this event by pulling out Dog-strangling Vine, sifting the soil, and then covering the rather large bare area with a tarpaulin. After planting, the tree was watered and we all helped to spread the tarpaulin carefully across the rather large bare area surrounding the tree.

Laurie had been an active OFNC member as a birding field trip leader, secretary for the Birds Committee, and working with the Macoun Field Club. She had left us a generous bequest which was used to buy a VideoCam to observe the activities of an Osprey’s nest at Shirley’s Bay. Professionally, Laurie was a botanist with the Canadian Museum of Nature specializing in Artic grasses. Her colleague Roger Bull shared some photos.

Laurie at Brock River

Laurie at Brock River (photo by Roger Bull @ Candian Museum of Nature)

Thinking

Thinking (photo by Roger Bull @ Candian Museum of Nature)

Note: A Tribute to Laurie Consaul appeared in a 2013 issue of the OFNC’s journal, the Canadian Field-Naturalist 127(4).

Percy Taverner Park

by Fenja Brodo

Imagine a park named after an ornithologist! Well that is exactly what happened the beautiful afternoon of Wednesday September 24th when a small pocket park was dedicated by Councillor David Chernushenko to the memory of Percy Taverner, ornithologist, architect and a former resident of the neighbourhood – Old Ottawa South.

Taverner: New sign for a new park.

Taverner: New sign for a new park.

Michel Gosselin (left) Curator of Birds, CMN and Dr. Mark Graham, Vice President Research & Collections, CMN.

Michel Gosselin (left) Curator of Birds, CMN and Dr. Mark Graham, Vice President Research & Collections, CMN.

On hand to celebrate this event were the designer of the park, a representative from Ontario Hydro, Dr. Mark Graham (CMN) who said a few words on behalf of Percy Taverner, Michel Gosselin (CMN curator of birds), Holly Bickerton (OFNC member and promoter of this name) and her children, Ted Sypniewski (whose idea it was in the first place), as well as friends and neighbours.

Ted Sypniewski (third from left), originator of the name and his supporting neighbours.

Ted Sypniewski (third from left), originator of the name and his supporting neighbours.

This park is at Woodbine Place and used to be an Ontario Hydro substation. Four imaginative bicycle racks border the entrance to this little pocket park. They are stylized Northern Cardinals reputed to be Percy Taverner’s favourite birds.

I recommend A Life with Birds: Percy A. Taverner, Canadian Ornithologist, 1875-1947 by John L. Cranmer-Byng, a special issue of the Canadian Field-Naturalist, 1996, volume 110, number 1, for a very nice read on Percy Taverner.

OFNC communications: follow up to 2015 member survey

communications-tree-owlby Linda Burr
Education and Publicity Committee

Thank you to all of our members who participated in the survey on communications this past January. The electronic version was distributed by email to 658 members and a paper survey was distributed by mail to 115 members. We received an incredible 395 responses (39 on paper, 356 on-line), which is a response rate of 51%! Considering that a 10% return rate is viewed as good for these types of surveys, it shows that OFNC members are really passionate about this organization, and the results should provide an accurate snapshot of our club’s membership.

The survey is part of a larger plan to improve the ways in which we use our various communication tools (e.g., website, Facebook, etc.) to better serve OFNC members and attract new members. We want to ensure that the OFNC is still thriving in the future and that it continues to meet its members’ expectations, including ensuring that members can easily find out about all club activities in which they may want to participate.

The vast majority of our members (76%) are 55 years or older (46% are 65 and over). While it’s easy to make assumptions about members’ communication methods based on their age, we learned from the survey that 85% want to receive emails, 44% want to receive paper mail, and 22% want updates via Facebook. What does this mean in terms of the ways we will communicate with members in the future?

To better understand how the OFNC is currently communicating with members, our consultant has now spoken with all the individuals in the club who are involved with communications. We have realized that the OFNC and its committees are using about 30 different communication channels with members, including Trail and Landscape, emails from various groups within the club, Facebook, websites, etc. Why so many? If our goal is to ensure that the ways we are communicating are those that will best serve the club members, could the OFNC benefit from a more coordinated approach to communications?

Ultimately, we want to ensure that we make the best use of all the communication tools at our disposal. Currently, the final analyses from the survey are being tabulated, and the broader implications for the club are being considered. A final report with recommendations will be submitted to the OFNC Board by the consultant in June 2015.

Stay tuned for more in June!